How To Build Your Child’s Social Emotional Library

While in college, I remember my professor stressing the importance of building our “internal library.”  I was intrigued by this concept.  I loved the idea of walking around with a database of information and skills that could be drawn from whenever I needed it.  For years, I remembered his wise analogy, whenever I was learning something new that was challenging, I comforted myself by remembering that I was building this library within myself.  Whether I was succeeding or “failing” this library was being built and I would forever have it with me to guide me through my future actions in life.  There were no “mistakes” of the past.  Everything was building my character and making me who I am today.  

Since becoming a mom, I have taken this metaphor more literally and intentionally started building my children’s “internal library” with a library of SEL books in their bedroom.  Using books to teach social emotional skills is highly effective for children because it brings it to a level that they can relate to and it engages them. When adding new books,  I chose books that teach the skills and lessons that I know are important for them to learn in life.  This way they get a good story at the time, and when they need the skill in their lives, they have a book to reference in the future.  Here are some tips for how to build the library.  Think of it as a proactive approach. An investment in your child’s “inner” future.  

1.Finding the Books:

It is important to remember to cast a wide net.  Even if your child is not encountering a specific challenge at that time, it is important to get books that relate to a variety of skills. Remember, you are building their internal database so they have the tools when they need them; i.e. on the playground, on the sports field or taking a test.  Here are some tips on ways to find the books:

  • Ask the librarian at your local library for age-appropriate books relating to character building and social emotional themes. Example themes could include: empathy, staying present, growth mindset, leadership, confidence, community service or resiliency. Also, look in the parenting section for adult books and don’t forget to check out the local library book sales for a bargain.
  • Go online and search Pinterest or Amazon for suggestions of books that fall under a certain skill you may be interested in.
  • Look through the Scholastic reader that comes home in your child’s backpack for a character building or social emotional section.
  • Ask for books from friends and family when there is a gift giving opportunity; i.e.  birthdays and holidays.

Here are some of our favorite SEL books to build your library:

  1. Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners
  2. Enemy Pie: How to handle relationships and conflicts.
  3. The Recess Queen: Bullying and conflict resolution.
  4. The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others.
  5. Stand In My Shoes: Kids Learning about Empathy
  6. She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World
  7. Incredible You: 10 Ways to let your Greatness Shine Through
  8. On My Way to a Happy Life
  9. The Story of Ferdinand
  10. Mindset Matters: Growth Mindset
  11. Bubble Gum Brain: Growth Mindset

2. Using the Books:

When you see your child encountering a specific challenge during the day choose to read a book at bedtime that addresses that specific challenge- or leave the book out on the bed or chair where your child will spot it and may chose to read it themselves.  It’s about giving them the tools and reminding them where to find them when they need them (our ultimate goal as parents).

Once the story is read, try talking about the situation the character in the story experienced as a way for them to draw parallels to their own lives. “How did Suzie handle the situation?” “What would you do in that situation?”.  It is a great way to discuss situations with kids without them feeling defensive.  It may be easier for them to talk about the characters in the book than their own situation.   Help them make the connection between the power of books and learning. 

3. Sharing the books:

At Wonder Crate, we believe strongly that once you learn a skill yourself, that the next step is to share it with others.  An easy way to share this concept of internal skill building is to use every gift giving opportunity as a chance to share an inspiring book with other children they know. They have enough toys, one more won’t positively impact their lives.  However, a powerful and well told story about a character dealing with something they too deal with, will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I still remember books from my childhood that changed my life.

Books are a powerful way to learn. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr. Seuss)

Let Wonder Crate build your library for you. Each month we do the research to find the best books on each topic. We then test the recommended book on our “mini consultants” to make sure they are engaged and excited. Order your February box today and receive the book “Stand in My Shoes” by best selling author Bob Sornson.


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